Drinks Atlas: Long Island, New York - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

Drinks Atlas: Long Island, New York

Stretching more than 100 miles eastward into the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island, New York, may be best known for its scenic bays and beaches and the tony neighborhoods of the Hamptons. But with sandy soils and a temperate, maritime climate similar to that of Bordeaux, it’s an area ripe for the production of classic wine varietals. And though the West Coast or New York neighbors like the Finger Lakes may still hold the lion’s share of attention when it comes to American wine, Long Island’s relatively young wine region is finally coming into its own. “It’s still overlooked, but less so than it has been,” says Lenn Thompson, Long Island–based wine writer and founder of The Cork Report. “People who care about wine in the tri-state area know that there are good-to-great wines being made on Long Island now.”

With vineyards only first established in the 1970s, Long Island may still be in its vinous infancy. But in the past half century, the region has grown to include about 50 producers and upward of 2,000 acres of vineyards where more than 6,000 tons of grapes are harvested annually. The style of wine being produced has also seen a marked evolution, particularly over the last decade. “The most important change in Long Island wine in the past five to 10 years has been a move away from excessive extraction and excessive new oak in favor of letting the uniqueness of Long Island terroir shine through,” says Thompson, pointing to inherent qualities of the wines that are now being highlighted. “They are food-friendly because of their medium-bodied nature and fresh, natural acidity.”

While the region has long been associated with Bordeaux-style blends, winemakers are increasingly exploring beyond Meritage wines. “There has been a push for increased diversity in grapes grown and wine styles produced. Merlot and Chardonnay are still the most-planted grapes, but things like Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc have earned more attention,” says Thompson. “Grapes like Chenin Blanc and Albariño are showing promise, and there are people working with things like Vermentino, Melon de Bourgogne, Verdejo, Lagrein, and others. Long Island wines are no longer poor facsimiles of wines from the West Coast or from Europe. They can only be grown and made here, and they reflect that.”

4 Wineries to Explore

Bedell Cellars

Founded in 1980 in Cutchogue, Bedell Cellars has long been one of the island’s highly regarded producers. “Winemaker Rich Olsen-Harbich literally wrote the AVAs for the region and has been making wine here as long as anyone,” says Thompson. “He was a pioneer in using ambient yeasts and making unoaked Cabernet Franc, and he still continues to experiment with new-to-the-region varieties like Melon and Albariño.” bedellcellars.com

Paumanok Vineyards

Farming 86 acres in Aquebogue, Paumanok Vineyards makes a range of styles from their estate-grown grapes and has been fully solar-powered since 2017. “The current winemaker, Kareem Massoud, is the second-generation winemaker, taking over for his father a number of years ago,” Thompson says. “He’s making some of the most age-worthy wines in the region and his relatively new ‘minimalist’ line of wines (low-intervention) are some of the wines I’m most excited about here.” paumanok.com

Lenz Winery

One of the founding wineries of the North Fork, Lenz was established in 1978 and strives for classic style representations made with their estate-grown grapes. “Bordeaux varieties dominate here along with Chardonnay, though new winemaker Thomas Spotteck (who took over from longtime winemaker Eric Fry in 2017) has added a new rosé and Sauvignon Blanc to the lineup,” says Thompson. The winery also offers vertical tastings from their extensive “Lenz Library” of vintages. lenzwine.com

Macari Vineyards

The Macari family has owned their 500-acre farm on the Great Peconic Bay for more than 50 years, following biodynamic practices from the first vineyard plantings in 1995. The winery crafts both traditional blends and single varietal bottlings, along with more experimental offerings like a sparkling, skin-contact Petit Verdot. “They are using concrete eggs for certain wines now,” says Thompson. “I’m particularly fond of the Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc made in them—their ‘Lifeforce’ label.” macariwines.com

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